What’s in a Word?

There is significant discourse on political correctness. Some argue we taken it too far. Others say we have not gone far enough. Although some people may have taken this construct to the extreme, there is substantial justification for tailoring one’s language (and behavior). Words hurt, and the negative effects can stay with you for years. The use of offensive language continues. Three examples of such terms are:
• Tribalism,
• Banana Republic, and
• Voodoo Economics.
Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe is promoting the term “tribalism” to describe the bad behavior of his Republican colleagues. Other media people, such as Eugene Robinson, are repeating the term. This term is an insult to Native Americans and Africans. In the aforementioned cultures, “tribe” has a specific meaning that has nothing to do with behavior. It is about kinship. Using the term, “tribalism,” is akin to calling the Washington football team, “Redskins.” It’s insulting. Mr. Scarborough can plead naivete, but Mr. Robinson is a Black man who is an accomplished scholar. He should know better.

Let’s look at Banana Republic. You only hear this term when media is denigrating certain American practices by saying things like “acting like a banana republic,” or, are referring to undeveloped countries or economies, usually Third World countries. The term, has a very specific meaning but lately it is only used by White people to describe something negative - negative behavior, bad decisions, and/or backward economies.

What about Voodoo Economics? That was a term coined by former President George H. W. Bush to describe then candidate Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. It was not and is not a complimentary term. It was never meant to be. It couples “Black magic” with economic theory. In truth, voodoo is a religion practiced in Africa and brought to the Americas during the inter- continental slave trade. It is a religion much like Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Mormonism, etc. What if Black people started saying Catholic economics or Mormon economics in a pejorative or negative manner? There would rightfully be an outcry by White people. It is insulting to people who practice the religion.

What images are invoked when you hear or read these terms? – backwardness, ignorance, corruptness, rigidity, etc. - all negative associations. African Americans and other people from the global majority have endured micro-aggressions and macro-aggressions by White people that emanate from raw racism for centuries since the days of slavery. Today, White people say they have no responsibility for the sins of their forefathers. This is not history I’m talking about however. It is today, embodied in President Trump and White supremacy groups (Trumpets). Trumpets have emerged from the shadows and are as vicious and violent as they ever were. White people of goodwill have a responsibility for stopping this bigotry and preventing the perpetration of same. One of the ways the effects of racism and bigotry can be ameliorated, in part, is through language. Since most derogatory slights of this kind have historical roots, White people have a particularly important role in correcting the errors of the past, stopping current racism, and taking steps to counter the continuation of this abuse. Political correctness is one small step.

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